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Someone to Talk With, Something to Talk About
uploaded : Friday 31st Oct 2003 at 22:41
by : Debra DeLee
Since Ariel Sharon was elected Prime Minister on the promise to bring peace and security to Israel, he has delivered neither.
Instead, he has offered only an ever-increasing use of force in response to the horrendous terrorist attacks to which Israelis have been
subjected. He has dismissed serious negotiations with the Palestinians with the excuse that there is no one to talk with. And even when there was a new Palestinian Prime Minister, Abu Mazen, who seemed to meet
Prime Minister Sharon?s requirements for a partner, the Sharon government did precious little to support him.
Nearly 900 Israeli deaths later, it?s clear that his policy is not working. Nor, for that matter, has Yasir Arafat?s failure to curb the
violence of the Intifada produced anything except thousands of Palestinian casualties.
Now, a group of dedicated Israeli and Palestinian military veterans, political leaders, academics, and intellectuals have crafted a serious plan?-known as the Geneva Accords-?for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. They approached this project in a private capacity, with no pretensions that their document reflects the views of their governments
or are binding. In this sense, the Geneva Accords follow a tradition of Track II diplomatic efforts that have been made over the years by concerned citizens of the region from both sides of the Green Line.
But what is particularly notable about the drafters of the Geneva Accords is the incredible breadth and credibility that they bring to the
table. Israeli security figures like former chief of staff Lt. Gen.(res.) Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Maj. Gen. (res.) Gidon Shefer, and Brig.
Gen. (res.) Giora Inbar helped write the document, along with prominent politicians like Knesset Member and former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg, Knesset Member Haim Oron, Knesset Member Yuli Tamir, and former Justice
Minister Yossi Beilin.
They worked closely with senior Palestinian political leaders for over three years to reach an agreement, Palestinians such as former
Information Minister Yasir Abed Rabbo and other cabinet ministers and senior Fatah officials, like Nabil Kasis and Fares Kadoura. Marwan
Barghouti is also said to be continually apprised of developments in the talks.
What these Israelis and Palestinians have produced is truly a remarkable blueprint for peace.
Over the course of fifty, highly detailed pages, the Geneva Accords lay out the painful trade-offs that both sides must make in order to achieve a viable solution. The formula outlined for addressing the refugee issue is particularly noteworthy, as are the possible arrangements for
addressing the division of Jerusalem, control over the Temple Mount, and interlocking bilateral and multilateral supervision and monitoring mechanisms to help ensure that both sides carry out their obligations.
The Geneva Accords are not about achieving maximum demands. Rather, they are about reaching a reasonable accommodation for two states, Israel and Palestine, to live side-by-side in peace and security. They are consistent with earlier efforts to strike a peace deal, and they could supplement the Road Map, which contains no details about what a final peace treaty between Israelis and Palestinians should look like.
Having said all that, it must be noted that the Geneva Accords are not complete. There are no provisions on water, economic relations, or
legal cooperation in the text. Nor have annexes been added to provide crucial details about monitoring, security, Israeli withdrawal
arrangements, Jerusalem, and refugees. These items are vitally important for determining the ultimate utility of the ideas put forth in
So the Geneva document is not necessarily the last word on what a peace treaty will look like?nor do its authors claim it to be. Reasonable
people can certainly take issue with many of its specifics, while others will refrain from passing judgment until all the details are in.
But this does not diminish the central point of this exercise: contrary to what extremists on both sides have been shouting for over three years of violence, there are still moderate, reasonable Israelis and Palestinians with stature who want a different future for their
societies, who still believe in a two-state solution, and who have written a very credible proposal that they knew in advance would draw
heavy, personal criticism from hardliners back home.
If Prime Minister Sharon or President Arafat can present a better plan that is also acceptable to both sides, let them do it.
Until that moment arrives, however, the Geneva Accords should give all supporters of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process a sense of hope that better days could lie ahead?because there is someone to talk with, and there is definitely something to talk about.
Debra DeLee is President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now.
Americans for Peace Now
Fax (202) 728-1895